How One CU Customized Mobile Service

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LATHAM, N.Y.-Sunmark FCU here can offer more through its custom mobile banking product than credit unions that buy mobile banking from a vendor, according to Ryan Hickman, new media specialist at the $400-million CU.

Members get a banking interface custom-built for the particular handheld device they use, for example, Hickman explained. And soon, mobile members will be able to scan Quick Response (QR) codes embedded on the credit union's billboards and mailers to receive unique offers and a multimedia experience on their device.

The biggest advantage to developing our own mobile banking product is scalability," he said. "We can manipulate the user interface and control the brand experience and aesthetics for as many different devices as we want, which helps us avoid the generic experience you might get from a vendor."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder-more importantly, so is security, he continued. "Members take comfort in the security of mobile banking just by way of the quality of the visual information. If the credit union puts a 'cheesy' input box and logo against a generic, white background, that doesn't convey confidence with security.

"And while it's great to put a graphic designed to fit a 100 to 200 pixel space on a BlackBerry, that same logo doesn't have the quality around the edges on iPhone 4 with retina display," Hickman said. "The member might think it's a hacker site."

Members had a say in the mobile banking features Sunmark developed, Hickman added. "A test group of members told us what they would like to see-that's how our ATM geolocator capability was added."

Text Alerts A Member Favorite

Members' favorite feature is text alerts, which help them avoid overdrafts, said Hickman. "It's great to know what your balance is whenever you and your significant-other are out swiping your card in different places."

This month, Sunmark sent members a postcard printed with the CU's first QR code. Most mobile devices can read these barcodes, which, in this case, take the user to a custom mobile site delivering the member a free insurance quote in seconds flat, said Hickman.

The barcodes are a first step in making Sunmark the primary source of financial information and rewards on mobile devices, said Hickman. Next up are experiments with Near-Field Communication (NFC), a short-range wireless communication technology that will be built into millions of phones in the coming year, he said.

"NFC will create a more seamless experience than QR," Hickman said. "We could instantly show mobile members a video message from an executive or direct them to a special rate for a new car loan. We'll create a digital community with rewards."

Hickman said he sees Sunmark diving deep into the mobile Web. "We want to align with people who are actively looking for products and services on mobile devices. We want a mobile platform that is heavily search-optimized so that when they research their purchases in Google, they always end up at our site."

Sunmark released SMS text banking and wireless Internet banking in September, said Hickman. Native applications for the iPhone, Android operating system and BlackBerry are pending approval from the operating system makers.

SMS users can check balances, view account history and get alerts. Wireless Internet banking and mobile application banking, which enable stronger security, add the ability to transfer funds and pay bills.

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